Abdul-Malik Al-Houthi: A wolf in sheep’s clothes

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Houthi supporters listen to a speech by militant leader Abdul-Malik Al-Houthi at a rally in the Yemeni capital Sanaa in 2015, shortly after the rebel group forced the country’s legitimate government into exile. (AFP)
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Houthi supporters listen to a speech by militant leader Abdul-Malik Al-Houthi at a rally in the Yemeni capital Sanaa in 2015, shortly after the rebel group forced the country’s legitimate government into exile. (AFP)
Updated 15 April 2019

Abdul-Malik Al-Houthi: A wolf in sheep’s clothes

  • The Houthi leader likes to portray himself as an underdog — but his violent ideology tells a different story
  • The Iranian-aligned Houthis have always been renegades, causing trouble in Yemen

JEDDAH: When it comes to preaching hate and unleashing terror, the Yemeni rebel leader Abdul-Malik Al-Houthi stands right beside Osama bin Laden, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, Iranian militia strongman Qassim Soleimani and Daesh leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.

The 40-year-old Al-Houthi and his armed militia have been sanctioned by the UN Security Council for overrunning Sanaa, the Yemeni capital, and for sending the country’s legitimate and internationally recognized government into exile in January 2015.

The Iranian-aligned Houthis have always been renegades. Hiding in the mountains of Sadah in northern Yemen, they ran a parallel autonomous entity and never sought involvement in any peace process or power sharing. And in late 2014, while the Yemeni political class and military were embroiled in a power struggle, the Houthis seized the opportunity to take over the country.

According to the UN Security Council, “Abdul Malik Al-Houthi is a leader of a group that has engaged in acts that threaten the peace, security or stability of Yemen. In September 2014, Houthi forces captured Sanaa and in January 2015 they attempted to unilaterally replace the legitimate government of Yemen with an illegitimate governing authority that the Houthis dominated.

“Al-Houthi assumed the leadership of Yemen’s Houthi movement in 2004 after the death of his brother, Hussain Badreddin Al-Houthi. As leader of the group, Al-Houthi has repeatedly threatened Yemeni authorities with further unrest if they do not respond to his demands and has detained President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, the prime minister and key Cabinet members. The president subsequently escaped to Aden. The Houthis then launched another offensive toward Aden.”

The US has also imposed sanctions, including a travel ban, on Al-Houthi for threatening Yemen’s stability. Following the US lead, the EU has also imposed an arms embargo and further sanctions on the rebel leader.

With their slogan “God is great, death to America, death to Israel, a curse upon the Jews and victory for Islam,” the Houthis have a long history of intolerance. They have detained foreign nationals, as well as Yemenis, and have been accused of expelling or oppressing members of the rural community of Yemeni Jews in northern Yemen.

In an interview aired on Yemen Today TV on Jan. 22, 2013, Rabbi Yahya Youssuf Salem, head of the Jewish community in Yemen, said that in 2007 the Jews were forced to leave their hometown in Saada “because of the threats (they) were getting from the Houthis.”

“They took our homes, our land and our cars. They even took my historical library,” Salem said.

 

The Houthis also have been accused of detaining and torturing members of the Baha’i community.

 

Al-Houthi targeted the Baha’is in a speech aired on Al-Masirah TV on March 23, 2018, in which he accused followers of the faith of being “satanic” and “agents” of the West.

The militant leader has also turned his sights on targets further afield. 

In an address on Al-Masirah TV in 2016, Al-Houthi claimed he feared for the safety of Makkah. But on Sept. 14, 2017, on the same channel, the Houthi terror chief said that Yemenis should take their cue from North Korea and focus on the development of missiles. “To have rockets that could reach far beyond Riyadh, this is a great achievement,” he said.

According to Saudi political analyst Hamdan Al-Shehri, the Houthis support the doctrine of Vilayat-e-Fakeeh (Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist) — the same theory propagated by Iranian clerics.

“The concept grants the supreme leader ultimate authority to pass any edict against anybody and everybody, condemn any community, deride any religion, and call for the death and destruction of all those who (disagree),” Al-Shehri said. “The supreme leader’s followers must carry out his orders because he is considered next only to God.”

Al-Houthi is cut from the same cloth as Iranian leader Ali Khamenei, said Al-Shehri. “Al-Houthi has no qualms about putting children and women in harm’s way ... this is the exact strategy employed by other militias and terrorist organizations, including Hezbollah, Al-Qaeda and Daesh.”

Few people realize how Saudi Arabia and the Arab coalition were forced into the war in Yemen, Al-Shehri said, referring to Europe’s fight against Hitler in World War II. “That war resulted in huge losses, but the evil of Hitler had to be uprooted,” he said. “Al-Houthi is (no less a threat) than Hitler. Their ideologies are similar; both are rooted in hate.”

Al-Shehri said it is unfortunate that the outside world sees the Houthis as underdogs.

“The Houthis have launched hundreds of missiles into Saudi Arabia,” he said. “They even launched them at the Holy City of Makkah. They have sent their ballistic missiles into densely populated civilian areas. For such people, nothing is sacred … They have managed to hoodwink the international community by saying that the weapons are used in defense of their country. Well, they have taken their hostages and they have starved them. The aim of the Arab coalition is to liberate Yemen from this curse.”

Al-Houthi is no different from Osama bin Laden or Hassan Nasrallah, the analyst said. “They not only share the same taste in clothes — the long black robe and imamah favored by Iranian clerics and the Hezbollah chief — but also the same murderous ideology.”

 

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US officials: Iran sent emails intimidating American voters

Updated 22 October 2020

US officials: Iran sent emails intimidating American voters

  • Intelligence director: “These actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries”

WASHINGTON: US officials accused Iran on Wednesday of being behind a flurry of emails sent to Democratic voters in multiple battleground states that appeared to be aimed at intimidating them into voting for President Donald Trump.
The announcement at a rare, hastily called news conference just two weeks before the election underscored the concern within the US government about efforts by foreign countries to spread false information meant to suppress voter turnout and undermine American confidence in the vote.
The activities attributed to Iran would mark a significant escalation for a nation that some cybersecurity experts regard as a second-rate player in online espionage, with the announcement coming as most public discussion surrounding election interference has centered on Russia, which hacked Democratic emails during the 2016 election, and China, a Trump administration adversary.
“These actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries,” said John Ratcliffe, the government’s top intelligence official, who, along with FBI Director Chris Wray, insisted the US would impose costs on any foreign countries that interfere in the 2020 US election and that the integrity of the election is still sound.
“You should be confident that your vote counts,” Wray said. “Early, unverified claims to the contrary should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism.”
Wray and Ratcliffe did not describe the emails linked to Iran, but officials familiar with the matter said the US has linked Tehran to messages sent to Democratic voters in at least four battleground states that falsely purported to be from the neo-fascist group Proud Boys and that warned “we will come after you” if the recipients didn’t vote for Trump.
The officials also said Iran and Russia had obtained voter registration data, though such data is considered easily, publicly accessible. Tehran used the information to send out the spoofed emails, which were sent to voters in states including Pennsylvania and Florida.
Ratcliffe said the spoofed emails were intended to hurt Trump, though he did not elaborate on how. An intelligence assessment released in August said: “Iran seeks to undermine US democratic institutions, President Trump, and to divide the country in advance of the 2020 elections. Iran’s efforts along these lines probably will focus on online influence, such as spreading disinformation on social media and recirculating anti-US content.”
Trump, speaking at a rally in North Carolina, made no reference to the press conference but repeated a familiar campaign assertion that Iran is opposed to his reelection. He promised that if he wins another term he will swiftly reach a new accord with Iran over its nuclear program.
“Iran doesn’t want to let me win. China doesn’t want to let me win,” Trump said. “The first call I’ll get after we win, the first call I’ll get will be from Iran saying let’s make a deal.”
Both Russia and Iran also obtained voter registration information, though such data is considered easily, publicly accessible. Tehran used the information to send out the spoofed emails, which were sent to voters in states including Pennsylvania and Florida.
Asked about the emails during an online forum Wednesday, Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said she lacked specific information. “I am aware that they were sent to voters in multiple swing states and we are working closely with the attorney general on these types of things and others,” she said.
While state-backed Russian hackers are known to have infiltrated US election infrastructure in 2016, there is no evidence that Iran has ever done so.
The voter intimidation operation apparently used email addresses obtained from state voter registration lists, which include party affiliation and home addresses and can include email addresses and phone numbers. Those addresses were then used in an apparently widespread targeted spamming operation. The senders claimed they would know which candidate the recipient was voting for in the Nov. 3 election, for which early voting is ongoing.
Federal officials have long warned about the possibility of this type of operation, as such registration lists are not difficult to obtain.
“These emails are meant to intimidate and undermine American voters’ confidence in our elections,” Christopher Krebs, the top election security official at the Department of Homeland Security, tweeted Tuesday night after reports of the emails first surfaced.